You must be curious about the sign “No Pepper” when going to some baseball ballparks. Actually, it has nothing to do with a ban on bringing pepper condiments into the baseball field.
So what is pepper in baseball? Pepper is a common baseball drill wherein one batter goes against several fielders. This popular pre-game drill helps ramp up the reflexes, boost batting, fielding accuracy, and hand-eye coordination.
Why Is It Called Pepper?
Pepper is more than just a culinary spice. It can also mean the act of directing something abruptly and repeatedly at someone aggressively or intensely.
You’ll often come across phrases like “peppered with bullets”, “peppered with questions”, or “peppered with kisses,” and they all mean something was directed at someone excessively.
Now that we have a clear peppering definition, let us find out how it applies to baseball.
A baseball pepper drill usually consists of a small group of fielders lining up in front of a single batter from a short distance. The exercise begins with one of the fielders pitching a ball that the batter must hit. Then, the fielder who catches the ball pitches it back to the batter until the latter is put out.
As you can see, the baseball pepper drill is an intense workout because of the short distance between offense and defense. The batter is “peppered” with balls that he must hit at every instance lest he gets ruled out.
How to Play Pepper in Baseball
The great thing about pepper game baseball workouts is that they can be done in backyards or other small outdoor ground spaces. The only other things you will need are a baseball, a bat, and gloves for the fielders.
While there are no set rules regarding the number of players, a baseball pepper game can have two to five players. One player takes on the batting position while the rest take on fielding positions.
Here are the steps in conducting a pepper game in baseball:
- Step 1: Have the fielders line up side-by-side, about 15-20 feet away from the batter.
- Step 2: Start the game by having one of the fielders pitch a soft toss to the batter.
- Step 3: The batter should hit a ground ball lightly, so it does not go over where the fielders are positioned.
- Step 4: The fielder who fields the ball pitches the ball back to the batter. The batter hits the ball again and the process is repeated until the batter is put out.
- Step 5: Depending on how the batter was put out, one of the fielders takes on the batting position.
- Step 6: If the batter was put out because he missed a pitch, the top fielder in line gets to bat next.
- Step 7: If the batter was put out due to a caught pop-up, the fielder who caught the ball gets the privilege to bat next no matter where he is in the line.
- Step 8: If the batter hits a foul tip, the next fielder in line gets the opportunity to bat next.
Because of the proximity of the fielders to the batter, there are certain rules to follow during a baseball pepper drill or game:
- The batter must choke up on the bat to gain more control of the ball upon contact.
- The batter must attempt to hit ground balls in the direction of the fielders. Line drives and fly balls are not allowed.
- As much as possible, the batter must also attempt to direct hits to alternating fielders for better accuracy and control.
- Fielders have to pitch only soft tosses to the hitter. They can do overhand or underhand throws as long as the ball is within the level of the waist and shoulders.
Why Are Pepper Drills Used in Baseball Training?
Baseball pepper drills are among the best training methods that develop batting prowess and defensive game skills.
They have been used to sharpen hitting and fielding techniques for different game scenarios.
1. For batters
Pepper drills help promote better bat control, quicker reflexes, and proper timing. Because the ball is thrown from a short distance, batters have less time to assess whether an incoming ball is a high ball or a low ball.
As a result, they need to react faster and develop better reflexes to hit the ball successfully.
Also, unlike real game situations where pitches are ruled as either strikes or balls, all balls thrown in a baseball pepper drill must be hit by the batter.
Hence, batters must remain focused so they can make timely contact with the ball. This helps a lot in developing excellent hand-eye coordination.
(Another way to improve batting accuracy and correct hitting flaws is to practice fence drill baseball training. In this drill, batters hit a ball on a stationary tee while avoiding the fence barrier just a few feet in front of them.)
2. For fielders
Baseball pepper drills also help promote better reflexes and faster reaction time. Because 15 – 20 feet is relatively a very short distance from the batter, fielders must be on their toes at all times to catch the ball.
Ball speed and direction also become more unpredictable as pepper games gain momentum.
It helps train fielders to be ready for all types of hits that come their way.
Pepper drills are a great venue to hone a fielder’s jumping and diving skills when fielding a ball.
Why is Pepper Banned in Baseball?
Pepper games and drills were quite popular back in the 70s. These days, however, they have been banned in most baseball stadiums and public ballparks. That’s why you’ll see “NO PEPPER” signs on baseball fences and backstops.
Player and spectator safety are why pepper games are no longer allowed in ballparks.
- Due to the fast pace of pepper drills, there is always the risk of players getting injured.
- Balls may also land in the stands and hurt game spectators.
- Field damage beyond regular wear and tear is another reason behind the ban on pepper drills. Because play is concentrated in a very small field area, pepper drills’ intensity can be quite destructive to grass and turf.
Pepper was a popular training drill and pre-game exercise in the earlier days of baseball. In addition to teaching the fundamentals of the game, coaches used pepper drills to develop good hand-eye coordination, improve player reaction time and achieve better bat control.
We hope this article has given you clear answers to the question, “What is pepper in baseball?” and why it has been banned in most ballparks. Feel free to share our post with other baseball enthusiasts and spectators who may still be wondering what that “No Pepper” sign is all about.
A powerful swing and the ball is flying across the field, just one hit, and we might never forget the thrill it brings. I do not know about you, but I never do. Every baseball game is the chance to compete with others and cooperate with your teammate. It is among my biggest passions.